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What are Those Weird Ingredients in My Lotion?

Updated on July 16, 2015

Overview of Ingredients Discussed in This Article:

  • Hydrated Silica
  • Phenoxyethanol
  • Propylparaben
  • Glyceryl Oleate
  • Methylparaben

Many chemical products we use on our bodies such as lotions, hairsprays, medicines, and makeup have a ton of ingredients in them. Some of these ingredients are pretty common and have simple names. Mineral oil, water, and citric acid are a few examples. But most of the ingredients have a long, weird, "scientific" name that the average consumer can't pronounce correctly. The average consumer usually has no clue about what those ingredients are either. This guide will discuss some of the weird ingredients contained in some of these products.

Mary Kay Botanical Effects, All Natural Skin Care
Mary Kay Botanical Effects, All Natural Skin Care
Hydrated Silica
Hydrated Silica

Hydrated Silica

Hydrated Silica is a form of silicone dioxide, or in simpler terms, sand, which has been combined with water molecules. It is used to make substances thicker or more abrasive. It's odorless, tasteless, and non toxic. The amount of water that hydrated silica can contain varies. It can also be manufactured, and the water content can be manipulated.

Hydrated Silica can be found in many different forms in nature. One of the forms is opals, a gemstone commonly used for jewelry. Another form is diatomaceous earth, which is basically fossilized remains of tiny, aquatic organisms called diatoms.

Hydrated Silica is a product that is "Generally Recognized as Safe" (GRAS) by the FDA. Common uses include toothpaste, skin scrubs, and cosmetics. It is important not to confuse Hydrated Silica with crystalline silica, which is a toxic substance.

Phenoxyethanol

This liquid product is used as a preservative in a lot of skin care products. Although mainly produced synthetically for commercial use, Phenoxyethanol occurs naturally some products such as green tea. It is known to be known to be non-toxic, although there has been some debate over this. One advantage of using Phenoxyethanol is that it has anti-microbial properties against yeast, bacteria, and molds. Phenoxyethanol has been used as an alternative to other preservatives such as Quaternium-15 because it does not release formaldehyde. Ingestion of Phenoxyethanol has been known to be toxic to infants, sometimes causing vomitting, diarrhea, and in some cases when mixed with Chlorphenesin, respiratory depression. Therefore, parents must use caution, especially with lotions and other substances applied on the body.

2-D structure of Propylparaben
2-D structure of Propylparaben

Propylparaben

Propylparaben is a member of the paraban family and is used as preservatives and antimicrobial agents in cosmetics, skin care products, medicines and pharmaceuticals. It is especially good at killing and preventing the growth of fungi. When used in commercial products, it is usually synthetically manufactured (although it does occur naturally) and is a low-cost product, leading to widespread use.

In cosmetics and skin care, Propylparaben is safe in concentrations of up to 25 percent. Propylparaben can also be used in foods and medicines. When used in products to be ingested, the concentration is usually less than 1 percent. When ingested orally, Propylparaben can be absorbed into the body, but it breaks down quickly. It can, in some rare cases cause a skin irritation or allergic reaction.

One concern about Propylparaben is that it increases hormones such as estrogen in females. There have been studies that have tried to link Propylparaben to breast cancer, but these studies have failed to produce conclusive evidence.

Avoiding Toxic Ingredients While Pregnant

Glyceryl Oleate

Glyceryl Oleate is used as an emulsifier in many skin care products, usually in concentrations of up to 5 percent. It binds ingredients together and helps products to retain its shape (such as lipsticks and candles). It also helps to prevent separation of ingredients. Glyceryl Oleate is composed of glycerin and oleic acid, a naturally occurring fatty acid. These substances are both of vegetable origin. Glyceryl Oleate can also be used for skin and hair conditioning. It is a yellowish substance and can be found as a thick liquid. Glyceryl Oleate is not known to be toxic, but in rare cases can cause skin irritation.

Botulism can cause denting and swelling of cans. Methylparabens can inhibit the growth of botulism.
Botulism can cause denting and swelling of cans. Methylparabens can inhibit the growth of botulism. | Source

Methylparaben

Methylparaben is a member of the paraben family. It can be found naturally in many plants and fruits such as blueberries. Methylparaben is used in cosmetics and foods as an anti-fungal agent. It can inhibit the growth of Botulism as well as bacteria and fungi. Methylparaben can also inhibit the growth of Drosophila larva, more commonly known as fruit flies. Although Methylparaben is quickly absorbed through the skin, it breaks down quickly and exits the body through urine, like other parabens.

The use of Methylparaben in foods and other products has been highly controversial. There have been studies linking Methylparaben to many diseases and/or health problems, but none of the studies have been conclusive. Some of the health problems that have been theoretically linked to Methylparaben are: breast cancer, skin damage, eye damage (when used in eye drops), and male fertility issues.


It is important to note that the studies on the harmful health effects of these ingredients have not produced any conclusive results. These ingredients have been deemed as "Generally Recognized as Safe" by the FDA and are currently used in millions of products around the world. There are alternative products available without some of these ingredients for a consumer who is concerned about using these ingredients.


There are a lot of weird ingredients present in skin care products, as well as other products such as cosmetics, foods, and medicine. Many people are clueless as to what these ingredients are or what they do, so hopefully this guide helped to shed some light on a few of these ingredients.

Do you think any of these products are extremely hazardous to our health?

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